Not All Books Are Equal

Have you ever stopped reading because a book just wasn’t holding your interest? But . . . you felt like you should slog on and finish reading that particular book. Somehow, you failed–you are the loser if you don’t finish every paragraph, every word. This is especially true if the book won a major prize or if all your friends (your good reader and writer friends) are raving about it.  So, your reading slows down. You read a little bit every day, but just a little bit because you find your mind drifting. Almost anything else interests you–watering the plants, ironing a few blouses, straightening the closet–rather than reading that particular award-winner or best-seller.

Well, what I’ve learned is to to move on.  Start another book. Often I’m reading two or three books at the same time, and unquestionably some books interest me more than others.  I just need to give up the shame, admit it–move on.  For example, I loved John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and LOOKING FOR ALASKA, but was a little less fond of PAPER TOWNS. The characters in PAPER TOWNS didn’t pull me in as strongly as did he characters in FIOS and LFA.  I read PT, but mixed it with other reads. (I think PT will make a great movie, however, and I’ll be one of the first purchasers of Green’s next book.)

Similarly, I loved ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE in the first third of the book, but then my attention faded a bit. It’s a great book, deserving of all the awards and accolades, it has received, but after a while the style, which was fresh and beautiful at first, became a bit of a barrier. I read on, but read fewer pages every day and mixed that read with some other books until I finished. (Doerr is one of the greatest stylist of our age. No one writes descriptions any better than does Doerr.)

Here’s what I have learned: every paragraph and every word of a best-seller or major award-winner may not hold the full attention of a particular reader.  Every word of every book is not for every reader. I love COLD MOUNTAIN, but some readers find it too slow. I love EMPIRE FALLS, but my students don’t like the long prologue and the slow start. I slogged my way through ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, which is an all-time favorite for other readers (love his short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”). Another example: Love Donna Tartt, but parts of THE GOLDFINCH were a little slow for me.

I’m currently reading THE OREGON TRAIL, and LIFE IS GOOD–enjoying both books., but what I’ve learned is that when a book slows or stops my reading, I need to:

  1. Not feel shamed because I like one book less or more than other readers. Not every book is created equal in terms of my personal reading preferences.
  2. When a book slows for me, add another book to the mix–nothing wrong with reading two or three books at the same time.
  3. Speed read sections that get too slow for me.
  4. But . . . here is the really big thing:  DON’T LET A BOOK STOP MY HABIT OF DAILY READING. Fast read if necessary, add books to the mix, move on, but the important thing is to keep on reading!!
  5. That’s what authors want too–for readers to keep on reading, buy those books, download those books, but keep on reading.  That’s the really important thing!

There–I’ve said it. Not all books are created equal for me or for you as a unique reader, even if the book won a major literary prize and everyone is raving about it doesn’t mean that you (or I) will gobble it up. The important thing is to READ ON!  READ ON!!!

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